White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

More on Two Kingdoms

On Friday we posted a brief response to Kevin DeYoung’s concerns about the two-kingdoms doctrine. Today, we’re following up with another of our regular Modern Reformation contributors, Dr. Darryl Hart.

Having Your Cake and Eating it Too

Kevin DeYoung seems to see a tension between the two-kingdom and neo-Calvinist approaches to Christ and culture.  He sees positives and negatives on both sides.  An important concern missing from DeYoung’s analysis is the Protestant doctrine of vocation, the idea that God has given to believers distinct duties through which they serve and glorify him and care for their neighbors.  The Reformation doctrine of vocation was a huge breakthrough for the church because it took tasks (baking, banking, and farming) previously considered irreligious and gave them religious significance.  Because creation is good, and because God providentially cares for his creation through the secondary means of work, people engaged in tasks previously considered worldly or secular could now serve God and glorify him in their daily duties.

The two-kingdom approach to Christ and culture is superior to neo-Calvinism because it is based on the doctrine of vocation.  For the Kuyperian, Christians have a holy duty to take captive every square inch.  In the current political climate, the neo-Calvinist position has inspired many believers to engage in politics and change the nation.  It has also meant that those who have different ideas about politics or who do not sense a call to engage the political process are guilty of not following their Christian duty to transform society.

The two-kingdom approach recognizes the diversity of callings both among Christians and institutions.  Not every Christian is called to be a banker or a Republican. Not every Christian is called to oppose national health care.   Not every Christian is called to a holy vocation (the Christian ministry).  A “secular” calling is not inherently sinful and is actually good in the sight of God.  Not every institution is called to administer justice.  In fact, the church’s calling is to minister forgiveness – not exactly what the Bible says is the work of the magistrate.

If DeYoung knew the two-kingdom view better, he might recognize that he could have the best of both positions because the two-kingdom approach to Christ and culture yields it.

Darryl Hart is an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is currently writing a global history of Calvinism for Yale University Press.  Dr. Hart blogs at the Old Life Theological Society.

Christian Persecution in Iran

Elam Ministries granted us permission to repost this story from their latest newsletter. If you would like to know more about their work or the status of Christian persecution in Iran, please visit www.iran30.org.

Dear friends,

In a dramatic session before the revolutionary court yesterday (Sunday August 9) in Tehran, Maryam Rustampoor (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh (30) were told to recant their faith in Christ. Though great pressure was put on them, both women declared that they would not deny their faith. Maryam and Marzieh were originally arrested on March 5, 2009 and have suffered greatly while in prison, suffering ill health, solitary confinement and interrogations for many hours while blindfolded.

On Saturday August 8, Maryam and Marzieh were summoned to appear in court on Sunday August 9 in order to hear a verdict on their case.  The chief interrogator had recommended a verdict of ‘apostasy.’  However, when they arrived, no verdict was actually given.  Instead, the court session focussed on the deputy prosecutor, Mr Haddad, questioning Maryam and Marzieh about their faith and telling them that they had to recant in both verbal and written form. This made it clear that in the eyes of the court, Maryam and Marzieh’s only crime is that they have converted to Christianity.

Mr. Haddad, asked the two women if they were Christians. “We love Jesus,” they replied.  He repeated his question and they said, “Yes, we are Christians.”

Mr. Haddad then said, “You were Muslims and now you have become Christians.”

“We were born in Muslim families, but we were not Muslims,” was their reply.

Mr. Haddad’s questioning continued and he asked them if they regretted becoming Christians, to which they replied, “We have no regrets.”

Then he stated emphatically, “You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form.”  They stood firm and replied, “We will not deny our faith.”

During one tense moment in the questioning, Maryam and Marzieh made reference to their belief that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit.  Mr. Haddad told them, “It is impossible for God to speak with humans.”

Marzieh asked him in return, “Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?”

Mr. Haddad then replied, “You are not worthy for God to speak to you.”

Marzieh said, “It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy.”

Mr. Haddad told the women to return to prison and think about the options they were given and come back to him when they are ready (to comply). Maryam and Marzieh said, “We have already done our thinking.”

At the end of the session, Mr. Haddad told them that a judge will give them his verdict, though it is not clear who will be the judge in their case now.  He also allowed Maryam and Marzieh to have a lawyer represent them in the case for the first time since their arrest.

Both women are back in Evin prison tonight.  During their five-month ordeal, both have been unwell and have lost much weight. Marzieh is in pain due to an on-going problem with her spine, as well as an infected tooth and intense headaches. She desperately needs medical attention. Two months ago the prison officials told her the prison had proper medical equipment and that they will attend to her, but so far no proper treatment has been given.

Despite the concentrated effort of officials to pressure them into recanting their faith, Maryam and Marzieh love Jesus and they are determined to stand firm to the very end no matter whatever happens.  They have demonstrated their love for Jesus and would offer their lives for Him if they were called to do so.  After today’s court session they said, “If we come out of prison we want to do so with honor.”

Maryam and Marzieh’s case is a clear and harsh violation of human rights and religious liberty by Iran’s authorities. They deserve the support of all those who respect human rights and to be released without charges so they can pursue a life of freedom.

Thank you for praying.

The Elam team

Visit elam.com to learn more about Elam Ministries.

WHI-958 | A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church

Is something wrong with the soil in the evangelical garden? According to Warren Cole Smith, author of A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church, the answer to that question, unfortunately, is yes. On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with Warren about his provocative new book and the current state of evangelical Christianity.


Christless Christianity
Michael Horton
How Did We Get Here?
Michael Horton
Feasting in a Fast Food World
Michael Horton


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Artist: Soular
Song: You Taste, You Feel
Album: Love Crash Heal

Why Two Kingdoms?

Over at Kevin DeYoung’s blog, the conversation of the day has been the apparent conflict between two-kingdoms theology and neo-Kuyperianism. For those not familiar with the jargon, the question revolves around how a Christian individual and the church as a corporate gathering of God’s people properly engage the surrounding secular culture.

DeYoung (and Justin Taylor who links to it) are grateful for some of the wisdom they see in the two-kingdoms approach, but still have some questions and objections to it, which leads DeYoung to chart a third course for engagement between the church and the world.  Modern Reformation magazine and White Horse Inn have developed a bit of a reputation as promoters of the Reformation doctrine of the two kingdoms. We asked regular contributor Jason Stellman to interact a bit with Kevin DeYoung’s analysis of the two kingdoms doctrine.  Jason will be addressing this issue even more directly in an upcoming article, “The Destiny of the Species,” for our November/December 2009 issue of Modern Reformation, “Zion.”

On his blog DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed, Kevin DeYoung posted a thoughtful article weighing the pros and cons of two-kingdoms theology when weighed alongside the more popular Kuyperian position according to which “every square inch” of creation is Christ’s, who gives the believer the charge to redeem it. DeYoung raises some good points, but I’d just like to address his concerns about the doctrine of the two kingdoms and its potential dangers. I’ll paste DeYoung’s concerns and follow them with my responses:

“An exaggerated distinction between laity and church officers (e.g., evangelism is the responsibility of elders and pastors not of the regular church members)”

As far as I can see, there is no connection between two-kingdoms doctrine and DeYoung’s concern here. While it may be the case that some two-kingdoms proponents understand Eph. 4:11ff in a non every-member-ministry sense, it’s certainly not a necessary consequence of two-kingdom theology.

“An unwillingness to boldly call Christians to work for positive change in their communities and believe that some change is possible”

This one’s tricky. What one church member may call “positive change” could be deemed tragic in the mind of another. In the Seattle area where I minister, positively changing the community may take the form of shutting down the Gap because of its oppressive business practices that harm the third world’s poor. My guess is that it’s not this kind of positive change that DeYoung has in mind. The two-kingdom position actually protects the churchgoer from having the minister’s cultural values tyrannically forced upon him.

“The doctrine of the ‘spirituality of the church’ allowed the southern church to ‘punt’ (or worse) on the issue of slavery during the 19th century”

Guilt-by-association is never good argumentation. Plus, Charles Hodge taught the spirituality of the church, and he was a Yankee.

One last point: I find it ironic that DeYoung lists among Kuyperianism’s pros the fact that it, and not the two-kingdoms doctrine, highlights the goodness of creation. I would argue precisely the opposite. When one looks at the world and its beauty, grandeur, and ale and only sees the redemptive potential of these things, then is that really an example of appreciating creation for its own sake? Rather than surveying the world and thinking “So much unredeemed creation, so little time,” the two-kingdoms advocate sees creation as “very good” and worthwhile, albeit fallen. And before enjoying said creation, we remember that God’s whole purpose for the common grace sphere is to prolong life and thus erect a stage on which he can perform his redemptive work of calling sinners from this creation to a new one. When that work is done, Babylon will fall, will fall, and the world will pass away, and the lusts thereof.

What is our good news to this passing age in the meantime? Certainly not that Jesus is waiting to return until we’ve Christianized the planet, but that at an hour we think not the Son of Man will come with salvation and judgment, surprising a sleeping and rebellious world (you know, just like as it was in the days of Noah).

-Jason Stellman

The Rev. Jason Stellman is pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Woodinville, Washington. He is also the author of Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet. Jason blogs at De Regnis Duobus.

For more information about the two-kingdoms doctrine, check out the following issues of Modern Reformation:

The Gospel is a Complete Surprise

From session 2 of Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity DVD series:

It’s the gospel that’s surprising; it’s the gospel that comes to us and throws us off our horse, because the gospel isn’t wired into us. The gospel only came about because after the Fall—though God could have invoked the judgments that he threatened in the Law—he instead promised a Savior and clothed Adam and Eve, took all their fig leaves, and clothed them with the sacrificial skins of animals pointing forward to Christ. That was a surprise, a complete surprise. God could have wiped them off the face of the earth at that point and that’s why they ran because their law compass said, “we’d better run.” That’s why religions, you know, throw kids into volcanoes; and have things like penance where they’ll go through and make all kinds of satisfaction—crawl on their knees, bloody their knees–do whatever needs to be done; go on suicide missions; do whatever it takes in order to appease this God they know they’ve offended.

More on the Emergent Church

Last night’s White Horse Inn broadcast featured Mike Horton interviewing Jim Belcher, author of the newly released Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional. Back in 2005, WHI producer Shane Rosenthal went to the Emergent Church Convention in San Diego and wrote up some reflections for Modern Reformation magazine. Here is his summary statement, which anticipated much of what you heard last night between Mike Horton and Jim Belcher:

As I made my way back to my hotel room, I realized that the discussion had been very instructive. Not only did I get a better sense of what drew people to Emergent, but the conversation gave me some insight into the thinking process of those wishing to start an Emergent church. The issue is much deeper than hairstyle, as Keel indicated, or even worship preferences. It also goes deeper than appreciating postmodernism. At its heart, the Emergent movement is about failure. Having hitched their wagons to modernism in so many ways, many evangelical churches have failed to provide a place of solace and transcendence in the midst of a dying culture. Now with the waves of postmodernism crashing upon our shores, the failure of churches still clinging to modernist assumptions are increasingly apparent, especially to the next generation. Having failed to define ourselves by Christ’s story, our churches look like entertainment centers, self-help seminars, political rallies, and Kiwanis clubs. Most of us do not really know the person in the pew sitting next to us, and we have failed to live noticeably different lives than those of our non-Christian neighbors.

The Emergent convention was not merely about diagnosing the ills of the contemporary church, it also pointed us to various treatments and therapies. This is where I fear the Emergent Church fails to give us much lasting benefit. Labyrinths, yoga, and prayer sculpting (to give only a few examples) might make us feel better for the moment, but we need medicine of a stronger sort. Burning incense might help cover up the dank smell of a church facility, but it will not ultimately lead to reformation. Without question, recovering a lost sense of community is a grand idea, but if the community itself is not about something other than itself, it will not last. We need Christ: We need to be caught up in his story, rather than our own. We need to better understand his Word and his mission for the church, not our own Cain-like attempts at spirituality. While “re-thinking church” can sometimes be a step toward ecclesiastic renewal, it should never be forgotten that it has just as often been the root cause of schism and heresy. Truly authentic Christian faith and practice is not recovered by an examination of what other churches have done, whether ancient or modern. It can only be recovered if we once again focus our attention and submit to Scripture as our norm for faith and practice.

[“Experiencing Emergent” Modern Reformation( July/August 2005) Vol. 14 No. 4 Pages 28-35]

WHI-957 | Deep Church

What is the Emerging Church movement all about? Are some of its concerns with the traditional church legitimate, or does it sometimes go too far? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with Jim Belcher, a person who has been intimately involved with the Emerging movement since its inception. Jim’s new book on this subject is titled, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional.


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Artist: Doug Powell www.dougpowell.com

A New Site

Welcome to the new White Horse Inn website. We’ve created this site to make our resources easier to find and easier to use. Thousands of people from over ninety countries regularly visit White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation. We hope this reconfigured site makes it easier for you to find the tools to help you “know what you believe and why you believe it.”

Where should you start? Our First Time Visitors tab has a number of streaming WHI shows and articles that will get you up to speed. Our FAQ tab can answer some of your basic questions. But feel free to drop us a line if you need to know something more specific.

Whether  you’re a long-time friend of the Inn or a newcomer, we’d also invite you to consider donating to the cause. Although the economy is making things difficult for a number of nonprofits these days, we’re happy to report that our supporters are behind the mission of White Horse Inn and we’re poised for growth (this new facelift to our website is just the first of many improvements in the works). Your donation to White Horse Inn won’t just keep our lights on, it will help spread the message of the Reformation–a message we think is necessary for the church to recover her witness and work in this in-between age.

WHI-956 | The Narcissism Epidemic

Is Narcissism on the rise? And if so, has it affected American Christianity? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with Dr. Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.


Your Own Personal Jesus
Michael Horton
A Review of Joel Osteen’s: Become A Better You
An Interview with Ann Douglas


The Narcissism Epidemic, Twenge & Campbell
Generation Me
Jean Twenge
Christless Christianity
Michael Horton


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Artist: E-Pop
Song: I’ll Fly Away
Album: Rain City Hymnal, Vol.1

WHI-955 | Boredom & Entertainment

Compared with an action-packed movie, most people would probably characterize the ministry of word and sacrament as “boring.” So in order to reach out, should churches make their services more entertaining? Joining the panel for this discussion is Richard Winter, author of Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment.


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Artist: Doug Powell http://www.dougpowell.com

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